Jonesville Coal Mine Explosion 1937 Alaska ...
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COAL MINE EXPLOSIONS AT JONESVILLE
1937   14 FATALITIES
1957    5 FATALITIES




Written by  Coleen Mielke

2015


Protected by Copyscape Originality Checker

Evan Jones, Z.J. Loussac, Oscar F. Anderson, John "Jack" Collins and Dr. Frank Blythe formed the Evan Jones Coal Company in 1920. They leased 2,240 acres on the south slope of Wishbone Hill, north of Palmer, Alaska and opened the Jonesville Coal Mine, with Evan Jones as manager.


On October 26, 1937, there was a huge underground explosion at the mine; 4 of the 19 men working that afternoon escaped unharmed (Hjalmer Houser, Jack Angeli, Oscar Jyhla and Carl Edman). One other man, Victor Raide, a shift foreman, was badly injured but was carried to safety. Fourteen men died in the mine.  They were:


NAME
AGE
BORN
HOME TOWN
NOTES
BURIED
Cernick, Joseph
1908-1937
New Mexico
Cle  Elum, Washington
worked at mine 8 months
son of Frank and Alma Cernick
Cle  Elum, Washington
Nakki, Robert
1890-1937
Finland

worked at mine 1 year +
fished at Bristol Bay
Wife and 2 daughters
World War I  veteran
Anchorage, Alaska
Saarela, Jack
1904-1937
Finland
Juneau, Alaska
Son of August and Johanna Saarela
Anchorage, Alaska
Yerbich, Augustine
1914-1937
Illinois

Son of Peter Yerbich and Nadala "Dolly" Mistic. Also worked at Fern Gold Mine
Nebish, Minnesota
Huittla, Axel
1889-1937
Finland
immigrated 1906

Old timer in Alaska but only short time at mine
Had brother in Ketchikan
Anchorage, Alaska
Melznik, Frank Joseph
1906-1937

Chicago
Worked at Lucky Shot gold mine + Jonesville
Anchorage, Alaska
Mattson, John A.
1876-1937
Sweden
Colorado
husband of Eleanor Mattson  6 children
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Lampson, Leslie
1911-1937
Wisconsin
Sanborn, Wisconsin
son of William and Anna Lampson  - worked at mine 4 months
Anchorage, Alaska
Ferreni, Pete
1886-1937
Brescia, Italy

immigrated 1903   worked for AK RR many years
Anchorage, Alaska
Mikkola, Otto
(Nakkola?)
1896-1937
Finland

worked at mine 2 years + fished at Bristol Bay + prospected around Flat
Anchorage, Alaska
Asikainen, Abel Edward
1894-1937
Kaavi, Finland
immigrated 1912
worked at mine 4-5 months, had a daughter Violet in Crosby, Minnesota
Anchorage, Alaska
Williams, Paul
1894-1937
Smolensk, Russia

3 years at Jonesville
Anchorage, Alaska
Olson, Petter  Marius "Peter"
1904-1937
Helgeland, Norway

Immigrated 1924, changed name to Peter Olson in Anchorage, Alaska 1935.
Anchorage, Alaska
Lucas, Josef
1886-1937
Brno, Czechoslovakia

had a sister Mary Walenchik at Roslyn, Washington
Anchorage, Alaska

The first person to report the disaster was Harry Drake, a mine foreman, who telephoned Oscar Anderson in Anchorage and told him a large explosion in the mine had trapped 14 men and asked for medical help and laborers to help dig them out.

Dr. A.S. Walkowski and Dr. Howard Romig raced from Anchorage to the mine on an Alaska Railroad speeder car and found that 4 men had escaped the mine uninjured, but a 5th man, Vic Raide, a mine foreman, needed medical attention for a broken leg, broken ribs and extensive burns. The condition of the other 14 men trapped in the mine was not known.

When the explosion occurred, Jake Angeli was working a pillar about 350' from the gangway.  He said, "I had just looked at my watch and it was 2:10 when, all at once, it was like a shot passed my head like a wave. I stood there for a few seconds and then I told Carl Edman, who was with me, that I thought it was a gas explosion and that we better find the trouble. We started out and met a big black cloud of stinking, choking smoke that nearly blinded us. We bent low to get our heads out of the fumes. As we rushed towards the entrance, we found Vic Raide and moved him to a safer spot, away from the fallen timbers and planks.

While the doctors attended to Raide's injuries, he drew a detailed map, showing the rescuers where each of the men should be found in the mine. Scores of laborers dug, in 6 hour shifts, trying to get through the 35' mass of dirt, rock and timbers that lay 300' from the entrance to the mine.

Hjalmer Houser said that he and Otto Mikkola were together when they felt the concussion of the explosion. They tried to get to safety but decided to go back into the mine to help their friend, Augustine Yerbich. "We climbed and climbed and we were both gasping for breath. Our eyes were smarting and watering and just as I thought I was done for, I felt fresh air. I couldn't go another inch, so I just hung there with my nose in the fresh air. After a while, I wrapped my shirt around my eyes and nose and went back into the shaft for Mikkola. I told him, 'come on, try once more', but he didn't move. He weighed 230 pounds and I couldn't budge him. He died 6' from the surface."

It took 2 days to get all 14 men out of the mine. Their bodies were
taken to Anchorage by railroad car.


In 1938, the Alaska Commissioner of Mines filed an official report concerning the cause of the Jonesville explosion. The Commissioner, the U.S. Bureau of Mines safety engineer and three of the most "experienced and dependable" coal miners in the district participated in the investigation. They determined that the immediate cause of the explosion was a body of flammable gas and explosive coal dust that was ignited when one of the miners lit a cigarette near the face of the gangway. They also blamed Jonesville mine officials for not testing the mine atmosphere for flammable gas as well as their failure to stop miners from carrying smoking supplies and matches into the mine.

~~~
1957

Another coal mine owned by the Jonesville Coal Company (11 miles northeast of Palmer, Alaska), was being developed by an independent group of coal miners when an explosion killed five men on January 18, 1957.

The explosion was thought to be caused by undetected methane gas during blasting operations. The only survivor, Merrit Long, had left the mine shaft on a routine chore just minutes before the explosion. The other four men were found 1,000 feet from the entrance to the mine.

The men who lost their lives on 1/18/1957 were:

NAME
BORN    IN
BORN/DIED
FAMILY
NOTES
PHILLIP VINCENT "VINCE" DOHERTY
IRELAND
1919-1957
WIFE: MARY KATHRINE
SONS:  PHILLIP  JR.
               PAUL
               MARK
BURIED IN PENNSYLVANIA
JOHN  ELVIN  "STEVE" FOWLER





NICK  UZELAC
OKLAHOMA






UTAH
1921-1957






1915-1957
SON OF JOHN WILLIAM AND NELLIE FOWLER



WIFE: ALEEN  OLSEN UZELAC
CHILDREN:
ROBERTA  and LORENE
BURIED UTAH






BURIED PALMER, ALASKA
SAM  RASMUS  KWANDAHL
MASFJORD,  NORWAY
1900-1957
CAME TO AMERICA IN  1921
BORN: SOREN RASMUSSEN KVAMSDAL (BECAME US CITIZEN AND CHANGED NAME  IN  1956)
BURIED IN PALMER, ALASKA
GLENN  VORE
OHIO
1920-1957
WIFE:  DAISEY GILL VORE
DAUGHTER: GOLDIE GRACE
BURIED PALMER, ALASKA



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